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Torres v. Judicial Council of California

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 6, 2017

DAVID TORRES, Plaintiff,
v.
JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF CALIFORNIA; FIVE UNKNOWN AGENTS OF THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF CALIFORNIA; MARTIN HOSHINO, in his official capacity; STATE OF CALIFORNIA-DEPARTMENT OF REHABILITATION; SCOTT KERNAN, in his official capacity; KATHLEEN ALLISON, in her official capacity; STATE OF CALIFORNIA-DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION; SUPERIOR COURT OF SAN DIEGO; and FIVE UNKNOWN AGENTS OF THE SUPERIOR COURT, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO DISMISS; REMANDING ACTION

          Hon. Jeffrey T. Miller, United States District Judge

         Defendants Judicial Council of California and the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego, erroneously sued as Superior Court of San Diego, (collectively the “Judicial Defendants”) move to dismiss and to strike portions of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) for failure to state a claim; defendants California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and two of its officials sued in their official capacities, Scott Kernan and Kathleen Allison, (collectively “CDCR Defendants”), move to dismiss the FAC on grounds that they are not persons under 42 U.S.C. §1983; and defendant County of San Diego (“County”) moves to dismiss the FAC for failure to state a claim. The court grants the motions to dismiss the federal claims and remands the action to the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego.

         BACKGROUND

         On January 6, 2017, Defendants removed this action from the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego. The FAC, filed on January 27, 2017, alleges ten claims for relief: (1) false imprisonment; (2) violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983, Fourteenth Amendment; (3) violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; (4) violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983, Eighth Amendment; (5) negligent infliction of emotional distress; (6) negligence; (7) breach of mandatory public entity duties; (8) legal malpractice; (9) declaratory judgment; and (10) violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983, Sixth Amendment. Plaintiff's claims arise from the following generally described allegations.

         While on probation for a commercial burglary conviction in San Diego Superior Court Case No. SCD 290954, on or about June 27, 2012, Plaintiff was re-incarcerated to a term of six years for new offenses of petty theft, receiving stolen property, and probation violation in Case No. SCD 241737. (FAC ¶¶53-55). In both these cases, Plaintiff was represented by the County of San Diego's Public Defenders Office (“SDPDO”).

         On November 17, 2014, and October 7, 2015, an unknown entity acting on Plaintiff's behalf, “but without his knowledge or consent, ” filed Petitions for Redesignation of Sentence (“Petitions”) pursuant to Penal Code §1170.18, the codification of Proposition 47 passed by voters on November 4, 2014.[1] At no time had Plaintiff been informed or consulted about the filing of these two Petitions. (FAC ¶58). On March 3, 2015, Judge David. J. Danielsen of the San Diego Superior Court granted both Petitions and ordered that Plaintiff be released “forthwith.” (FAC ¶¶59-60). The Minute Orders in both cases reflect that SDPDO appeared on behalf of Plaintiff. Id. The Minute Orders, however, do not reflect the identify of the attorney who appeared on Plaintiff's behalf. Plaintiff did not receive notice from the court, SDPDO, or any other party concerning the Minute Orders ordering his immediate release from custody.

         On October 1, 2015, Plaintiff, acting on his own behalf, filed a Petition for Redesignation of Sentence pursuant to Penal Code §1170.18. On October 13, 2015, Plaintiff received notice from Clerk of Court for the Superior Court informing him that his Petitions had been granted on March 3, 2015. Plaintiff was released from custody on October 23, 2015.

         Plaintiff seeks compensation for the 230 additional days he spent in custody. (FAC ¶69). Plaintiff also seeks a declaration that his detention was unlawful and an award of attorney's fees and costs.

         DISCUSSION

         Legal Standards

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) dismissal is proper only in "extraordinary" cases. United States v. Redwood City, 640 F.2d 963, 966 (9th Cir. 1981). Courts should grant 12(b)(6) relief only where a plaintiff's complaint lacks a "cognizable legal theory" or sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dept., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Courts should dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim when the factual allegations are insufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (the complaint's allegations must “plausibly suggest[]” that the pleader is entitled to relief); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (under Rule 8(a), well-pleaded facts must do more than permit the court to infer the mere possibility of misconduct). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. at 678. Thus, “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. The defect must appear on the face of the complaint itself. Thus, courts may not consider extraneous material in testing its legal adequacy. Levine v. Diamanthuset, Inc., 950 F.2d 1478, 1482 (9th Cir. 1991). The courts may, however, consider material properly submitted as part of the complaint. Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner and Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1555 n.19 (9th Cir. 1989).

         Finally, courts must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Concha v. London, 62 F.3d 1493, 1500 (9th Cir. 1995), cert. dismissed, 116 S.Ct. 1710 (1996). Accordingly, courts must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint, as well as reasonable inferences to be drawn from them. Holden v. Hagopian, 978 F.2d 1115, 1118 (9th Cir. 1992). However, conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. In Re Syntex Corp. Sec. Litig., 95 F.3d 922, 926 (9th Cir. 1996).

         Prior to Iqbal and Twombly, “a claim of municipal liability under § 1983 is sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss even if the claim is based on nothing more than a bare allegation that the individual officers' conduct conformed to official policy, custom, or practice.” Whitaker v. Garcetti, 486 F.3d 572, 581 (9th Cir.2007). In addressing the impact of Iqbal and Twombly on the pleading standards for civil rights cases, the Ninth Circuit more recently stated:

we can at least state the following two principles common to all of them. First, to be entitled to the presumption of truth, allegations in a complaint or counterclaim may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively. Second, the factual allegations that are taken as true must plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such that ...

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